780 AM | 96.1 FM | “Yours for Western Alaska”

Nome Public Schools to Contract Out Lunch and New Breakfast Program

Nome Public Schools is set to change up school lunches in the year ahead. And breakfast, too.

At a special meeting Friday afternoon the board voted in a contract with NANA Management Service—NMS—to oversee food service and prep for the school district’s two sites.

Much the meeting was spent discussing details in the contract’s language. Board member Jennifer Reader clarified that while NMS will bring in a new manager, very little will change for the four district employees working in the school’s kitchens.

“The day-to-day person is still going to be there, but NMS is going to have overall control of everybody, so it’s not going to be that different. There’s gonna be somebody that comes in from the outside, but they’re still gonna be Nome Public Schools employees.”

The district pursued the contract because NMS, which has experience in similar rural Alaska schools, plans to introduce a breakfast program and serve more nutritious meals. And they’re contracted to do it at the same cost as the model currently in place.

During public comment two district employees spoke about concerns they have with the plan to put jobs under the supervision of an outside company.

“Our concerns with the employees that are here: they’re long term employees, they’re not short term. They have no wish to leave the district employ,” said Rick Verbridge to the school board and handful of public attendees. Verbridge is the president of the employees association whose members work in the kitchens.

He and others are worried because under the contract any new hires would automatically be NMS employees—not the school district’s—a measure they think will erode job protections and benefits packages in the years ahead. Verbridge is also upset that skilled kitchen work is being replaced by meals made offsite.

“The kids were getting scratch prepared meals up to this point. Now,” he continued, “the model that I was told is the same thing as what you would get on an airplane, which is strictly heat an serve.”

All but one board member voted for the contract, which will be in effect in the school year ahead.